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What a week: Turnbull calls a Double Dissolution election while health, education and families in limbo

THE TURNBULL Government wants to wage war on workers and he’s willing to threaten Senators that if they don’t pass his Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) and Registered Organisations legislation, he’ll call a double dissolution over it.

What’s a double dissolution election? It’s similar to a normal election but the whole Senate goes to the polls, instead of half. Every Senator is up for election, even the ones who were elected in the 2013.  It means the list of Senators you can vote for will be much longer and they only need half as many votes to get elected. This amount is called the quota. In a normal election it’s 14.28 per cent, in a double dissolution it’s 7.7 per cent.  If a Bill has passed the House of Representatives but the Senate either rejects it on two occasions – with a period of at least three months between each attempt – the government can request the Governor-General dissolve both houses of parliament and a double-dissolution election be held.

The ABCC in a nutshell Turnbull is keen to bring back the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC), which was a key part of WorkChoices that specifically targets unions and union members.   The ABCC legislation would restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission that was axed in 2007.  While the Turnbull government says the purpose of the ABCC is to monitor standards of conduct across the building and construction industry, Australian Unions see it as an attempt to weaken member power.  The ABCC tries to prevent relevant unions and their reps from acting on health and safety, which means workplaces in these high risk industries aren’t as safe. It also allows the secret interrogation of employees. The ABCC targets construction, maritime and transport workers – but if it gets up, it’ll just make it easier for Turnbull to go after all workers.  Read more here in this article by The Conversation. The union movement supports a national ICAC to investigate corruption more broadly.

On the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment Bill 2014 Turnbull is also keen to resurrect the twice defeated Registered Organisations Bill, which also looks to weaken the ability of unions to represent workers. The Bill regulates registered organisations, like unions, in the same way as corporations. One of the outcomes, if the Bill passes, is that rank and file union members who volunteer their time to sit on governing bodies will be exposed to large fines. Read more here in the Australian Unions submission to the Bill in 2013.

Meanwhile, recent EMC polling revealed that most of us care more about issues like improving health and education. These are what our government should be focused on ahead of the election.  Issues like: 

Paid Parental Leave

Paid Parental Leave remains in limbo, with women who are currently expecting or those planning a family unsure of the time they’ll have to care for their babies.  On Mothers’ Day last year, the Government announced that it would deny access to federally funded paid parental leave to 46% of Australian women.  As a result, 80,000 families will lose out with $11,800 to be ripped out of the budgets of 34,000 of those households. This still hasn’t passed the Senate. This change will disproportionately impact public sector workers and those with collective agreements – conditions that were built up over many years as members bargained to improve the time parents have with their babies. If this gets through, it’ll mean significant cuts to CPSU members’ current entitlements. You can sign the Paid Parental Leave petition here.

Health

Health in Tasmania has a deep black hole, thanks in some part to the Turnbull government, which pulled out of its funding agreement commitment. The Turnbull Government recently changed its funding criteria, which means Tasmania’s public hospitals will lose $20 million next year and $1.1 billion over eight years. In 2011, it signed a deal with state premiers promising to fund 50% of the efficient growth in hospital activity after July 2017. But it reneged in the 2014 and 2015 budgets.   We’ve all heard news reports and studies of what our underfunded health system means to all of us – surgery times have lengthened, bed shortages, a woman in her 90s forced to wait on a hospital floor, and this week a 91-year-old veteran who waited days for surgery and news that a woman miscarried on a chair in the Royal Hobart Hospital Emergency Department. Read more here. We know that there aren’t enough staff to care for us and get us back on our feet when we’re unwell. We need services that can take care of all Tasmanians when who are sick or injured.

Education

Malcolm Turnbull is refusing to fund the year five and six of Gonski, which will deny $80m in critically needed funding to our schools. Gonski, an independent review of school resources that was headed by businessman David Gonksi, was designed to provide additional resources for schools, tailored to match the needs of individual students. The Gonski funding model can mean resources like Speech Therapists and psychologists for children who need this help or more in-class support for students who are struggling. This funding is vital if we are to improve the educational outcomes for all Tasmanian children and break the link between disadvantage and poor outcomes. All Tasmanian children should be able to have what they need to learn and develop, no matter what their abilities are, where they come from or where they go to school.   You can sign the petition to lobby Prime Minister Turnbull to fully fund Gonksi here.

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